Friday, 18 November 2016

Still concerned about moving to Hosted VoIP?

You really don’t need to worry - let us explain

Are you in the process of looking at a new telephony solution for your business and are a little unsure or sceptical about VoIP? (Voice over Internet Protocol). Let us put your mind at rest.  
Courtesy of - Stuart Miles

We know that some people have a few misconceptions about VoIP and are pleased to say that most of these concerns are unfounded.  So, we’d like to guide you through the most common myths, so that you have the knowledge and information available to make an informed decision.

  • It’s expensive

In actual fact, a hosted VoIP system is very affordable and can save you money.  You no longer need ISDN lines, so you don’t need to pay for any that are not in use and no costly maintenance contracts or bills for your PBX.  Because of the additional flexibility and features a new hosted system brings, you will in fact have a far superior system for less money! So to summarise:-
  • No PBX in your office to install or maintain
  • Cheaper call costs
  • No additional fees for adding or moving phone extensions
  • Free support on the system
  • Free upgrades as they become available

And best still, less missed calls due to the outstanding functionality of the system, giving you more flexibility and capacity to answer more calls and therefore, boost your profit margins.

  • Poor quality

Many people base their opinion of VoIP on their home use of Skype. Today, business grade VoIP is crystal clear and certainly comparable to ISDN lines, if not better.   Merlin’s infrastructure is monitored constantly and consistently to give the very best quality of service levels.  

Over the years  VoIP has been given a bad name in certain areas, due to some providers putting in cheaper contended services and not using tier one carriers. Tier one carriers (such as Merlin), pass voice traffic using an 80Kbps codec.  Some providers will pass traffic as low as 16Kbps, this potentially causing inferior call quality.  

The quality of VoIP calls can also suffer because of other factors, such as bandwidth availability, the number of calls in progress or your own internal network setup.

Merlin will ensure that you have sufficient bandwidth to handle the calls required and also have a good understanding of your business needs and network, so that your calls are as clear as can be.   

  • VoIP is not secure

Many people perceive VoIP as insecure, because it relies on an internet connection instead of copper telephone wires.  

Well, the internet has been transferring secure information (which includes banking details etc) on a daily basis.  

Any telephone system  is hackable, yes, even analogue lines!  You only have to think to the hacking scandals involving well known newspapers. Merlin limits access to their systems strictly to the devices connected.  

Merlin take security very seriously and  have very tight security protocols in place.  We lock down connections to the fixed IP addresses (where available) and monitor live call patterns ensuring that if any client were to have their network hacked, any exposure to their phone system would be minimal.

  • VoIP is only for the largest companies

VoIP is not just a sophisticated system for large enterprises.  As VoIP is so versatile and scalable it makes it a very powerful option for even the tiniest of companies.  Low start up costs and having the ability to add extensions and services effortlessly to your system as needed, makes this a very attractive solution for any size business.

  • VoIP is hard to install

Well in reality, nothing could be easier.  All you need is a broadband connection and an IP telephone, plug it in and off you go. No PBX to sorry about, no upgrades and bare minimum of training needed - it’s all very easy to use.

You can add or take off extensions as and when you need to, and this in itself,is a very quick process for your provider.

Merlin will always configure your phones and router for you beforehand and this means there is minimal disruption.  It really is that easy!

One great advantage is that any future updates are free and installed instantly.
  • VoIP technology is too new

VoIP technology has actually been around since the 90’s.  Stop to think how far mobile phone technology has come since the “brick” you clamped to your ear, to the sleek, multi function item it has become now.  Well, the same goes for VoIP.

Uptake percentages are now far outstripping sales of traditional phone systems.

VoIP systems are here to stay and we know that ISDN lines will eventually be phased out just like video tape!

In fact, investing in VoIP is the smartest thing  you can do now to future proof your business and take advantage of receiving more benefits for a more cost efficient system.

If you still have concerns and wish to throw any technical questions at us, then just ring 08008778810

The Merlin Team
Always here to help you!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Traditional phone systems? Pah, no match for Cloud Communications!

If you are in the process of sourcing a new phone system for your business and are completely bamboozled by what’s available and what to choose -  Traditional -v- Hosted, then please read on.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
When thinking about a replacement system here are some compelling points you should consider before signing up to any system and hopefully will help with your decision making process!
  1. Scalability

With a traditional premises based telephone system, you initially purchase the hardware and software upfront and this means you have to gauge how much capacity is necessary, now and for the future.  Ultimately, if you are going through a quiet patch or your business is seasonal, you can’t scale down, so are paying for lines and services that are not in use.  However, with a hosted system, it is simply a case of adding or taking away extensions and services when demand dictates.  This is especially important if your business is growing, as you are only paying for what you need now.

  1. Features

Generally a premises based telephone system costs more than a hosted system and generally delivers less in terms of functionality unless expensive bolt-on modules are added.  We’d say this is probably one of the main reasons that business communications are moving rapidly over to hosted telephone systems.  With features such as; easily accessible call reporting, voicemail to e-mail, compatibility with CRM software using TAPI or API integration for click to dial and screen popping,auto attendant, call queues and cascading.  All these features can be relatively easily implemented to create a bespoke system for your exact needs.  Making such alterations/changes to a premises based PBX are either impossible or take a long time to configure and at additional cost too.  So, now every small or medium business can benefit from sophisticated features that once only the larger companies could enjoy, plus the system can be tailored EXACTLY to your needs and changed with very short notice.  

  1. Business continuity

If business continuity is important to you (and why wouldn’t it be!) then a massive benefit of a hosted telephone system is that you can easily divert calls from your business to other phones and locations easily if disaster strikes.  You can divert to a mobile(s) or another landline(s) or both,  just to keep your business moving along.  With a traditional system, it can take several hours to divert and also to take the divert off once everything is back to normal.  Of course, with a traditional telephone system, you can only divert the lines to one number, whereas with hosted phone system you can divert to any number of devices. Infact, with a hosted system, you can set up an automatic divert so that calls instantly fall over to another phone if your data connection goes down or there is a fault on the line.  

  1. Control

If you have several sites or offices or occasionally work from home, then a hosted solution gives you the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere, providing you have a data connection . This data connection can be broadband, 3G or 4G. You simply plug your own extension in, and the phone acts exactly as it would on your own office desk!  This particular feature is practically non-existent with a traditional system.

  1. Capacity

One distinct advantage  with a hosted phone system over a traditional system is that you can make numerous concurrent calls at the same time, whereas with a traditional system you can only make and take calls over the lines you have. A broadband connection with a 1 Mbps upload speed is equivalent to 10 lines.

  1. Future proofing

Having a system that is easily upgraded with the current release of software is really important, bringing any improvements and benefits to you instantly.  Comparing this to making upgrades to a traditional system which take time, and an engineer to sort out, adding extra cost.

A current benefit is SIP forking which means you can link your desk phone and mobile phone, so any incoming calls can be taken on either.  

There you have it, game set and match to cloud communications!

Tina Bricknell for
The Merlin Team

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

5 reasons why high quality network cabling is so important

Network cabling and it's installation is critical to the operation of every business.

Well, every business that has a computer system connecting to the internet, to one or more private intranets and to other peripherals such as a telephone system, printers, scanners etc.

Network Cables by Hywards.jpg
image courtesy of Haywards
It’s imperative that the wiring used for connectivity is of the highest quality and it meets current standards.

Upgrading your wiring really is an intelligent move in order to futureproof your business.   It’s also important that you choose a network cabling provider who really knows what they are doing.

  1. Reliability

Can you imagine if your systems failed one day?  Most companies totally rely on their internet, intranet or extranet, so no system means your business crashes and your customers won’t thank you for that!  We don’t need to spell it out, but any disruption is going to cost you.

  1. Cost

Yes, it will cost you to ensure your network is the most reliable it can be.  Don’t think you can cut corners by employing an electrician, you really do need an expert in this field.  Use a company with plenty of experience and great customer support.  Check their client portfolio and even ask for references.  Choose someone local to you, so they are on hand if you have problems.  Also check to ensure the engineers are accredited and can guarantee the work carried out.

  1. Crosstalk

This is the interference of an electrical signal from one wire or cable to another adjacent cable or wire.  Often the effect is manifested because of installing cheap cabling!  Crosstalk can cause many problems, including delay, slow network speeds and data errors.  

  1. Signal Attenuation

Quite simply, your signal can degrade or be lost over the distance of a lengthy cable, this is why buying the correct and best quality cable in the first place is so important.  

  1. Signal to Noise Ratio

If you have a poor SNR it can cause interference which can create network instability and speed issues.  You need the lowest ratio possible for the best quality network.  

So, if you value your business, we say do it once and do it right! 


Friday, 19 August 2016

Happy Birthday Merlin!

image courtessy of digialart

Merlin are 9 years old this week!

Naturally we are very proud and incredibly thankful to all of our loyal clients. 

Also very pleased to say, that the majority of our very first clients are still with us, which hopefully is all down to great products, system reliability and great customer service.

Although our client base has grown tremendously over the past few years, we have grown too.  Taking over a company in Norfolk has expanded our products and services, yet we still maintain the vision and values we set out from the beginning.

On our journey we have learnt a tremendous amount as well.

One very important fact is that "one size does not fit all".  Every business is unique.  Every network is different, and it's our job to ensure we support each and every need and requirement.  Luckily, because our systems are so flexible, we can and do provide a bespoke service.  Often a few small tweaks, or adding an additional function to a system can make a huge beneficial difference to a clients business.  

Our mission is still to be as transparent as we can and not wrap charges up into packages that make money for us, rather than the client. This works fine for most of our clients and they are very happy to buy from us because of this, but there are some that actually want a package because they know just how much their invoice will be at the end of the month.  Some clients actually think they really will get a better deal with a package.  It's just the psychology of a bundled up deal!

Many clients also have a preconceived idea that their telecoms will be cheaper if they buy into a longer contract term.  Often as not, this is not the case (Telecoms are a commoditised industry)  - it just makes it very difficult or expensive to move if you aren't happy with your provider.  We have noticed a few telecom companies have taken our lead and now offer a 30 day agreement.  We are very pleased to have been a pioneer in that direction. 

One last mention will be to the fantastic team of business partners who work with us.  We are very lucky to have formed some great relationships with a handful of IT companies who really work like we do; have the same principles and will bend over backwards to make something work for our clients.  They all have the same “can do” attitude, which is refreshing. We'd have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone.  

Finally, we’ll have a toast to all our clients, because we really couldn’t do it without you!

Cheers and thanks to each and every one of you.

Tina Bricknell for

Friday, 29 July 2016

Broadband outage! Do you have a back up plan?

The B.T broadband outages that occurred last week,  just highlighted a couple of points that we thought we would share with you.

Most of our clients use a hosted VoIP telephone system and when broadband was affected last week, some experienced no internet and/or poor call quality for a period of time.

The beauty of having a Merlin hosted phone system, meant that calls were quickly diverted to either a  mobile, another analogue line or another branch instantly, which gave our clients business continuity.

Clients that were affected at the time asked us what options existed to minimise the impact of such an occurrence in the future. 

We advised  that maybe it would be worth their while installing a second broadband  connection (using  an alternative carrier) so that if such a nationwide outage occurred again, they would have complete continuity for their business, as internet traffic or voice traffic could be routed to the unaffected connection.

If your business cannot function without the internet, then just imagine and quantify the monetary loss you might experience if you were down for a day. For example, staff sitting around with nothing to do, deadlines to
meet, possibility of payroll to run, end of month to deal with and missing new business opportunities.  As you can see, the cost of installing another line and broadband and the annual rental could easily be justified in a one day outage.   Added to which is the ongoing benefit of being able to use one connection for internet traffic and one for voice traffic which will give you improved performance in the long run.

To future proof  your business from the vagaries of  outages, then consider fitting another connection  for total business continuity when disaster strikes.

The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Cheaper utility bills? Don't forget the service!

We all love a bargain don't we?

Hunting in the sales and scouring the internet to make sure we have the best price for a particular item.

Or, do you take it a step further and actually haggle the price down?

Savvy shoppers do this all the time -  after all, why pay more for the same product?  

So, are you seduced when a cost cutting utility company calls your business or you get a flyer through your letterbox promising your energy and telecom bills slashed to next to nothing?

We all know that trying to analyse any utility bill, whether it be electricity, gas or telephone is a nightmare.  So many different tariffs, charges, periods, call packages!  We appreciate it might be a great idea to get someone to crunch the data for you, and offer you a cracking good deal, but before you do, please take on board these useful tips.

First of all, if the deal they are offering is really too good to be true then it probably is!  No such thing as a free lunch as they say.
Find out how the consultant/broker is paid and make sure the commission structure is completely transparent.  Often as not, the amount you can save sounds brilliant, but then you discover that you have to pay the cost management consultant up to 50% of the savings over 12 to 36 months.  Hmmm, not so attractive after all!
Although time consuming, you may just be able to secure better deals yourself, taking into consideration the commission you will have to pay.  You just need to do the homework.

Are you offered several different types of contract or just a fixed contract?  Being locked into a long term contract may be easier for your consultant to manage, but won't do you any favours if prices fall.  Invariably,  if you are tied into a contract you won't be able to move and this is a bit crucial if the support and service you receive is not all you expect.

If you have signed up with a consultant to investigate savings and don't go ahead you could also find yourself being sued for the savings that they have identified that you are not taking up.  It happens.

Check the consultant/broker out at Companies House (just to make sure they do exist and you're not being sucked into any sort of scam) and it might also be a good idea to Google the name of the company to see if there have been any complaints made against them.
It's also a very good idea to find out exactly how many companies the consultant has access to.  Needless to say, a small broker may only have access to a limited number of companies and therefore may not be able to get you the very best deals.

Lastly and probably the most important aspect will be the customer service and support you receive.  It goes without saying, that if you are paying peanuts for your energy and telecoms, then you won't be getting the best customer service.
Are you prepared to compromise the level of service for cheaper prices? If so, then ultimately this could be to the detriment of your business.  
Think long and hard before you sign anything.

If you take the time to locate a reputable company (get recommendations and read testimonials) with:-

1. Open and transparent pricing
2. No lengthy tie in period
3. Excellent technical support and customer service

Then although perhaps not the cheapest on the market, surely you will have achieved the best balanced deal all round?


Afterall, a cheap buy can be an expensive buy!


All images courtesy of Stuart Miles